ACP Chairman's letter to Observer
This letter was written to the Editor of the Observer newspaper by the Chairman of the ACP in response to articles published in the edition dated 13 April 2003 (The letter was not published.)
22 April 2003
Exposure to Pesticides
The report about hazards from crop spraying by Mark Townsend (April 13) contains factual errors and is seriously misleading. It is incorrect that safety agencies have no idea where pesticide droplets settle. Substantial experimental data are available on patterns of deposition and the influence of factors such as windspeed and spraying technique. Nor is it correct that the official method for assessing exposure to bystanders assumes that people are only subject to occasional short-term exposure. It aims to estimate the maximum daily exposure that an individual might incur, and then assumes that this exposure occurs on each day of a spraying season.
The Advisory Committee on Pesticides provides independent advice to Government on matters relating to the regulation of pesticides. Over the past year, the Committee has encouraged Georgina Downs to voice her concerns about pesticide exposures in those living adjacent to sprayed crops. We have taken her representations seriously and initiated a review of the approach that the Government in the UK (and the EU more widely) applies to exposure assessment for bystanders. This has included additional research to validate some of the assumptions that are involved.
The findings to date indicate that in the large majority of cases margins of safety are more than adequate. We are now exploring a selection of worst-case scenarios to check that this holds true even in extreme situations. If it does not, then we will recommend further action as appropriate. Meanwhile, we find no evidence of "an astonishing failure by the Government to protect the public health.".
Professor David Coggon
Chairman, Advisory Committee on Pesticides
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